I told Shamsul Anwar’s story

Published: January 18, 2012

Shams' wife has even come forward and given a testimony to the police that states that all members of her family are well and alive. PHOTO: FILE

I don’t know where to start from. I don’t know how to console all those who were fooled by Shamsul Anwar, the man responsible for cooking up a fake story to swindle people. What really disgusts me is that he toyed with the emotions of so many just for the sake of money.

Let me confess, I first filed the story on this very same man in December 2010, approximately a year before the story ‘Waiting to receive the pieces of daughter’s dead body’ was published by The News. The reason that made me do so was the same which made thousands collect money for him and pray for his daughter – I felt immense pain for the man. I will never forget the day I met him. Shams was sitting in our office reception carrying a plastic file.

It is my belief that anybody could have easily fallen for his ploy, since he was eager to show his bullet-ridden leg and reports stating that his son had blood cancer.

Journalism, of course, is about using reason and sound facts. However, as much as we try to deny it, human emotions do play a part in making a journalist who he is, and there are some heartfelt stories that can manipulate any of us.

Throughout my journalistic career, I have tried my best to become the voice of the helpless. In doing so, I must admit that I too proved gullible at the sight of the pale yellow face of Shams’ child, the deteriorating condition of his wife ,whom he brought to my office, and the pitiable state of the taxi he came in. He swore that he had nothing at home to feed his family, except half a carton of milk and some sugar, and often burst into tears. He also used to show an Urdu daily newspaper clipping which depicted him as a survivor and a hero. In simple words, his tears and the miserable condition of his surroundings made one so emotional that it was difficult to stay impartial.

This very emotion proved to be my weakness, and I now feel embarrassed that such a fraudulent story became the highlight feature of The Express Tribune.

Now, I have the opportunity to answer the question that has been on the lips of many since the story of Shamsul Anwar’s fraudulence became public.

“Was his son actually slaughtered by the Taliban?”

The answer is no.

I talked to DSP Cantt Circle Sardar Shahbaz Khan, who told me that Shams’ son Yaseen actually died 20 days after his birth. The story was indeed fabricated.

In addition to this, Shams’ wife has even come forward and given a testimony to the police that states that all members of her family are well and alive. She has further stated that she used to try her utmost to discourage her husband from concocting such stories, but he still persisted. I suppose greed is a powerful demon.

Given that the ordeal of this story is over, I feel a mix of emotions; I feel glad that the fraud has been uncovered, and sad, simultaneously, that I too was manipulated by the lies concocted by Shams. This story has raised fingers at all those who work so hard to make my paper what it is – a herald of factual stories. I sincerely hope that this fraud serves as a lesson to all journalists, including myself, to not let emotion be the guiding force of a news report.

Sehrish Wasif

Sehrish Wasif

A reporter on the Islamabad pages of The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Justice

    Move ahead. Try to write truth…loving the article of Zainab Imam on today’s pages. Wish more of you are blunt and truthful like her. Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/#!/Sidra_Rizvi Sidra

    he was a fraud indeed, but atleast he helped proving that Pakistani society is not a dead societyRecommend

  • Ali Hasan

    Quite an honorable thing to write this piece. Everybody screws up. Recommend

  • Asif Nawaz

    It wasn’t your fault. Your intentions were pious, and that’s important. Just don’t let the fraud come in your way of being the voice of the oppressed! Recommend

  • http://habloid.wordpress.com Habiba Younis

    its very understandable, your intentions were noble, anybody could have fallen for this. Best of luck for you career in journalism, these ups and downs teach you lessons in long run, Inshallah you will do very good in your field.Recommend

  • Faraz

    It takes immense heart and courage to admit being gullible, to admit of being fooled and more so admit it publicly. You are a brave girl, in the process giving a ray of hope to all of us readers out here not to lose heart and believe that morals exist and “Yellow Journalism” may not be a crime at every outset. It may just be a mere failure to overcome otherwise heartily emotional values such as empathy. Salutations!Recommend

  • American

    Thank You for writing a retraction. I’m actually very happy to see that people on ET take their integrity seriouslyRecommend

  • Raza

    It pr0ves tht 0ur s0ciety still have ppl wh0 will put fwd their help for ppl wenever needed! Thts the gud thing! While elements like these will always be present in the society..Journalism is n0t easy j0b,It c0mes with resp0nsibilty! H0pe j0urnalists will learn a lesson from this Fraud!Recommend

  • NA

    Did he foil the bombing attempt on the mosque or is that fabricated too?Recommend

  • Sonia

    Sehrish u admitted and its all over- thts true journalism!!!!!

    What I would really like to know is WHY he was doing this- has our government failed so badly!!!!!???????????????????

    Our leaders should be ASHAMED of themselves at what they have pushed the people to think of and to actually do- endangering lives and property of others (ur respect in the journalistic arena is ur property)!!!!

    I dont think Shams is even aware of this angle of damage that he has caused and considering his education level- he can concoct more plans like this without thinking what more damage he will do to society as a whole- spreading mistrust!!!

    I wonder what sort of insecurity pushed him to take such a bold step??? do you have any idea and if u can cover it in a blog- it would be highly appreciated:)Recommend

  • Nasir

    It happened every day with us on streets of every city of our country.Now a days its hard to isolate the deserving or non deserving people.Its very frustrating when you see people asking for help when ever you park some where.Its hard to decide whether to help this man/women.Few days back one of my friend faced the difficult situation on a Lahore-Multan GT road when a person jumped in front of his car and asked for help and in a very short time they do,nt know what he did to three of them who were in the car and took his wife bangle into his mouth and acted like he is going to die.In such a situation they try to escape but when they knew that their bangle is with the person who was acting and when they back after taking Uturn the person was not there.Recommend

  • Muhammad Tayyab

    For these types of men, our country has become disgraced for foreigners and even all over the Muslim world. If in future (May God protect us all well) it happens with some one really who will believe? We are really shameless and for the sake of some money we are ready to play with emotions of everyone. Whoever participated in the charity or in collecting money for him will be ashamed on himself for this but people don’t care of emotions. 1 thing they care for is only money.Recommend

  • http://www.faisalkapadia.com F.K

    To me its very simple, you and countless others on paks social media tried to help. Thus with the nobleness of your intention in the background I do not think any fault can be found in what you or the others did.

    What matters is that when it was needed people came together for good. Proves we as a nation of caring people are still alive, proves we have hope.Recommend

  • haroon ali

    So brave of you Sehrish to accept your mistake.Recommend

  • Zaid Hamid

    @NA:
    Did you not read what the guy wrote??? And pre empting your followup question, yes he also lied about the carton of milkRecommend

  • Osman Khan

    Agree with Ali. Indeed brave of you to wire this blogRecommend

  • Syme

    If you had checked the facts before jumping on the bandwagon of self righteousness and poiusness then you could have saved yourself the trouble of writing a retraction. Being gullible is not a crime but egging on other people and abusing your position before doing the necessary home work is a bad idea.
    We only blame ourselves to be praised.Recommend

  • Disillusioned With The Media

    Good on you for admitting that you screwed up. Not many would have the guts to do so.

    However what you did, Sehrish, was simply bad journalism. Did you ask for proof that his son had indeed been kidnapped by the Taliban? Did you ask to see the hospital reports of the on supposedly suffering from cancer? Did you speak to his former employers to inquire about the bullet wounds and his track record as an employee? Did you speak to neighbors, relatives or friends about him and his family?

    Obviously not. The problem is that Pakistani media is overun by anaari people who are armed with a laptop and an overwhelming need to file that sensational story that gets commented on and posted and talked about. That story that gets the television channel ratings and sells the papers. Your employers and I am talking generally and not ET specifically are out to make a quick buck and have zero integrity.

    And you, and so many others like you will make the same mistake over and over again. Unless you take a moment to think and put some blood, sweat and tears into every story you write. Get your facts right. Cover every aspect and point of view. And make sure your sources are impeccable. Recommend

  • http://www.zaidzamanhamid.wordpress.com Zaid Hamid

    From next time onwards try to speak truth like I do… remember my Sakeena bibi story.. or Kasab as Amar singh?
    See this is how you should should speak truth.Recommend

  • Omair

    @Zaid Hamid. Please try to speak the truth about our agencies on TV for once. Recommend

  • http://www.noorpamiri.com Noor

    Disgusted by his ability to fool all of us, I wrote a letter to ET, a modified version of which got published in the paper, the next day.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/321074/fooling-the-media/

    It is really good to see that you have realized the mistake and are willing to take corrective measures in the future.

    All of must make mistakes, but majority of us don’t own them. You are a brave exception.

    Thank you :-)Recommend

  • http://Islamabad Syed

    What I feel that there were some political motives behind this story which, somehow, couldn’t be fulfilled. I would believe that writer was innocent if she had written merely about his misery and asked people to help him. But that story was emphasizing more (all details were given in the story) on army and IK that how they didn’t help the poor man at all and how Ch. Nisar was there to help him and did whatever he could. If writer was trying to help him, she didn’t need to write all these details in the story. nor did i believe her when i first read the story and neither I am not believing now Recommend

  • questioner

    If only you had done your research before!Recommend

  • Farhan Gilgiti

    Good retraction. However, emotions have and will ruin objectivity, almost always.Recommend

  • ali baba

    bravo shams, hats off to you,you have exposed these media warriors. shame…….Recommend

  • Saqib

    For Writer:

    Sorry for the harsh comments, but ur confession just puts on another example of our media’s immature and making a mountain-out-of-a-molehill kind of attitude……………………..and worst of all, u ppl are still not ready to learn from ur mistakes……………

    immaturity at its best… thats all i can say!Recommend

  • Sayyed Mehdi

    Even the best of us make mistakes. I remember a recent goof-up by BBC where they published a story which claimed a study that says that IE users have lower IQ. It later turned out that the website that had published the original study was a spoof.Recommend

  • http://tribune.com.pk/author/2417/saman-nizami/ Saman Nizami

    Don’t feel bad cos u were fooled by him…feel proud of urself for having a heart:)Recommend

  • FUBAR

    On a scale of 9 to 10 how stupid do you feel right now? I dont understand how you people can publish stories without taking any steps to verify them. Amazing. He managed to fool a handful of people whereas it was you (the incompetent media) that managed to fool the entire nation.Recommend

  • Ahmed HM

    Its still funny that you fell for it.
    This story was widely circulated by the liberal lobby, and I believe the only reason was that it was somehow targeting the taliban.Recommend

  • to whom it may concern!

    It is true that sometimes it becomes very difficult to differentiate between the deserving and vise versa. The way people present themselves with proves we are forced to believe them. This i guess what exactly happened with the author and also with the reporter who filed his story in The news. But it is good thts his evil deeds has come infront of everyone and now he is in jail. Recommend

  • its me again2

    and yeah his place should not be the jail..but the PRESIDENCY….MAAR KE GEORecommend